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Standing out with design

Creating websites that stand out in an increasingly homogenised market, while still providing a usable experience, is a challenge. Here's how we do it.

Blue Pixel Top Left
Rob M
Posted by Rob M
29 April 2016

As designers, we face small battles every day. We have a desire to be relevant but also a lingering fear of becoming married to trends. And despite every new project triggering creative ideas and fresh innovation, we feel personally responsible for every degree in a user’s learning curve. In our long-since-abandoned portfolios, we’ve all got beautiful but unusable concepts and we’ve learned that the path of least resistance has us following design trends and playing it safe when it comes to UX.

Adding to our struggles (from a creativity perspective at least) are responsive frameworks, recycled grid systems and patterns; all welcomed with open arms because they ease the burden of design and development, but we’re then left with a situation where our creative efforts are poured into disguising their tell-tale identifiers. If we’re honest, we’ve probably all suffered from bouts of stifled creativity and homogenised output.

In truth, it all comes down to time. The ideal solution to achieving usable innovation is in exposing it to real users as much as possible; iterating and improving the design and dedicating as much time as it takes to perfect the user experience.


Time is money...

Commonly, however, budgets can make this a challenging prospect and usually the first thing to be sacrificed is arguably the most important aspect of a successful website project. Focus is taken away from the user experience and the specific requirements of your target audience, and given instead to getting the project in and out. Research isn’t carried out. User-testing isn’t implemented. Indeed, often the cheapest option available for launching a website is to implement a template or use a build-your-own-website service, entirely by-passing the consideration of your users altogether.

There’s no quick fix to overcoming these problems but simply being aware of them is a good start. If you know that using a framework or boilerplate might limit your creativity in terms of layout, or a unique styling won’t come out of channelling current design trends, try to innovate elsewhere. Go back to basics.

Download our guide to creating an effective user experience



If you’re not blessed with (or bound by, depending on which way you look at it) brand guidelines, spend some time early on in your design process on colour palettes that complement your clients’ logo / branding. Adobe Color is a good place to start, particularly if you’re tooled up with Creative Cloud, as you can save your libraries, integrate them easily into your Adobe weapons of choice, and seamlessly (almost) edit them on the fly. For a more experimental approach, try Color Crush, which is billed as "Tinder for Colour Pairing".



Despite the massive revolution in the world of web-fonts, there’s still a huge tendency to rely on favourites. But technology hasn’t changed the age-old fact that “Language communicates meaning; typography communicates feeling”. It’s laser-etched onto our brains not to overuse fonts but try and move on from that. Look at educating yourself and making meaningful decisions based on that knowledge. So brush up on your typefaces and delve into a bit of history and psychology, and concentrate on creating unique font pairings and combinations. It’s a great way to stand out from the Open Sans / Proxima-Nova crowd.


What story are we telling with our designs?

It is vitally important, in terms of your responsibility as a designer, to stress just how integral personality is to the success of a project. Storytelling is by far and away the strongest method of marketing your product or service online, but without learning about your audience, you might as well use Lorem Ipsum.

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